Lubbock Lashing Continues ISU Slide

The numbers from Lubbock are mind numbing. 52 points allowed. 45 first downs given up. The defense was on the field for 111 plays. 41% of the Red Raiders' plays were good for first downs. The defense allowed 775 total yards. Texas Tech converted 14 of 18 third- and fourth-down plays. That's a 78% success rate!

Normally, I'm an optimistic supporter of the Cyclones, regardless of how steep the climb looks. Right now, I must admit, I'm a little shell-shocked. A couple of days ago, I picked ISU to win this game. I wasn't trying to sugar-coat or spin anything, either. I sincerely believed the Cyclones would bounce back from a difficult game against the nation's best team (Oklahoma) and take Texas Tech right down to the wire.

Uh…I guess not.

Early in the second half, I felt good about my prediction. After Cris Love and Lane Danielsen hooked up for an 80-yard TD pass, the Cyclones had knotted the score at 21-21. Then, everything busted loose for Texas Tech and the Red Raiders went on a 31-point run to finish the game.

Now, everyone in the Cyclone Nation seems to be shaking their heads, wondering what hit them and how long will it be before ISU gets its football program put back together.

I'm hopeful that, despite what appears to be a tough 2003 season, the Cyclones can—and will—bounce back in 2004. And that's not just the "wait 'til next year" Cub fan in me saying that. I think that Iowa State will benefit from a much more reasonable schedule and hopefully, all the freshmen who are playing this season will be more comfortable, confident and productive.

After bringing this program to life and taking the Cyclones to bowl games for the past three seasons, I'm certainly not ready to chase Coach Dan McCarney out of town. That would be foolish. Here's a guy who has raised the expectations of Iowa State fans everywhere and for that alone, we should be thankful.

Obviously, mistakes have been made. There is no way that a Big 12 football team should have to play this many freshmen in key positions, regardless of injuries. But, I also believe that the athletes who have been recruited the last two years have the potential to lead ISU back into the bowl picture…and hopefully, the Top 25.

Honesty compels me to report that there is a lot of work to do before those things happen, though. Consider the following…

ISU is 3-10 in its last 13 games, starting with the 49-3 loss to the Sooners last fall.
In those 13 games, the Cyclones have been outscored by an average of 37-20.
During that span, only four times has ISU held its opponent to less than 34 points.
During that 13-game stretch, the Cyclones have scored more than 21 points only three times.
ISU is 1-6 in its last seven Big 12 games.
Only once in those seven conference games has Iowa State allowed less than 35 points.
In three of its last four Big 12 games, ISU has given up 52 or more points.
In its last four Big 12 games, the Cyclones have been outscored by an average of 51-16.
The average score in Iowa State's last seven Big 12 games is 44-17.

OK…that's enough. It's just not a pretty picture. You know it. I know it. Dan McCarney knows it. We all know it.

I'm just hoping that we've seen the worst of it…and that the Cyclones will bounce back up and start playing a little better brand of football. The final six games of the season look like this:

Oct. 18: Texas (#11 last week)
Oct. 25: at Nebraska (#7 last week)
Nov. 8: Kansas State (#21 last week)
Nov. 15: Colorado
Nov. 22: at Kansas
Nov. 29: at Missouri (The Tigers stomped on the Huskers this weekend.)

It certainly doesn't look easy. A 2-4 record during those final six games might be a pretty good run for ISU. A 1-5 mark could be more likely. And 0-6 is a possibility.

I prefer to think more positively than that, however. If I were Coach McCarney, I would try to look at this point forward as a "new season." The six-game schedule is difficult, but you know what? You can also look at the glass as half-full. For example…

Texas got its doors blown off by Oklahoma this week, 65-13, just like ISU did a week ago. The Longhorns aren't as good as they were hyped to be earlier in the season.

Nebraska is another team that was over-rated as the Cornhuskers were defeated by Missouri, 41-24, on Saturday.

Kansas State has lost three games in a row and has an 0-2 mark in the Big 12. The Wildcats certainly don't look like the Top 10 team everyone thought they would be.

Colorado has dropped three of its last four, including a 12-point loss to Baylor.

Kansas, which lost to Northwestern to open the season, was defeated 50-47 by Colorado this weekend.

Missouri lost to Kansas by three touchdowns two weeks ago.

So, it doesn't look like any of the remaining teams on ISU's schedule are unbeatable. In fact, a 1-1 record leads the Big 12 North right now. Is that parity? Or mediocrity?

Regardless, the opportunity is still there for Iowa State to turn the second half of this season into a positive note to build on in 2004. Let's hope that Coach McCarney and the Cyclones can find a way to do just that.

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com. His columns for CN online are published each Tuesday and Friday. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)


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